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Eliezer Papo: Struggle, Laughter and Survival: Partisan Haggadah – the Only Jewish-Spanish Parody of the Passover Haggadah, Created in Yugoslav Free Territory During the Holocaust

23. November 12:00 - 14:00

As with other traditional ethno-confessional groups, for the Sephardic Jews until the Holocaust the primary branch of parody was the parodia sacra. Given the Hebrew-centric nature of Jewish sacred literature, it is not surprising that the Passover Haggadah, as one of the few liturgical texts performed in its entirety in Hebrew-Spanish, to ensure the participation of women and children in the central annual house ceremony, became a favorite hypotext of Sephardic parodists. Today, we know about a hundred Passover parodies in the Hebrew-Spanish language. Most originated during the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, primarily in the Balkans, but also in Tel Aviv, New York, Curacao and Vienna. One of the most unusual Sephardic Passover satires is the Partisan Haggadah by Šalom Šani Altarac, created on the free Yugoslav territory, in Kordun, Lika and Banija in 1944. While other Sephardic parodies of the Passover Haggadah were primarily of a textual nature, published as holiday additions to humorous Sephardic papers, and were intended for individual reading, Šani's Partisan Haggadah is in fact a stand-up comedy. Its creator is a partisan fighter in charge of cultural work with fighters and the background (Jewish refugees and local civilians in the free territory).

To that extent, his Haggadah also contains Serbo-Croatian passages (which addressed both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences), in addition to the expected Jewish-Spanish ones. The latter, however, had, in addition to a satirical function, a didactic one: to teach Jewish civilians in free territory that the allies would never evacuate them to southern Italy, and to replace unrealistic hopes with a more practical fitting into life in liberated territory. We therefore have before us a unique and unrepeatable performative text from the time of the Holocaust, which speaks of the Holocaust in a carnival way. As if everything said so far is not unusual enough, after the war, the Partisan Haggadah became an unofficial part of the official collective Passover dinner in the Jewish Community Center in Sarajevo. The reasons that led the few Bosnian Jews who survived the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) terror to remember the Holocaust through a humorous text can only be understood in the context of the desire to counterbalance the mythologizing SFRY narrative of the Holocaust, in which the real human outlines of individual victims were lost.

Dr. Eliezer Papo is senior lecturer at the Hebrew Literature Department at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a Chairman of the Moshe David Gaon Center for Ladino Culture at the same University. He serves also as a President of Sefarad – Society for Sephardic Studies, an international professional association of the scientist dedicated to Sephardic studies, as well as the chief-editor of El Prezente – Journal for Sephardic Studies. Dr. Papo is also a representative of the Israeli Academia in the Council of the National Authority for Ladino Culture, as well as a member of the executive board of the later. His research centers on oral literature in general and Sephardic literatures (oral and written, rabbinic and secular) in particular.

He is presently conducting a research project sponsored by the Israel Science Foundation entitled: Annotated Edition of the Ladino Text of Magriso’s Mecam Locez on Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, accompanied by Transcription, English Translation and Introductory Research. In January 2014 his book And Thou Shall Jest with Your Son: Judeo-Spanish Parodies on the Passover Haggadah, received the prestigious Ben-Tzvi award. He has published around 50 articles, in 10 different languages, about different aspects of Sephardic culture and literature, as well as four works of fiction — one in Ladino and three in Serbo-Croatian.


23. November
12:00 - 14:00